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Mark Fujishige left his native Hawaii in favour of his favourite place in Japan, Tottori. Although he misses clambering up the sand dunes there and soaking in the waters of Misasa Onsen, he’s now based in Gifu Prefecture and leads tours all over Japan.
Located on the island of Shikoku, Takamatsu is a small city with fewer than 500,000 residents. Despite it’s size, it serves as an important transport and commercial hub for the region with an international airport, express train service to the island of Honshu, and extensive network of ferries reaching out to the islands in the Inland Sea.
Plane, train, or boat: getting in to the city should be no problem.
With just one day in Takamatsu, I recommend wearing comfortable walking shoes, bringing along a bottle of water for hydration, and preparing to meet (or break) your 10,000 steps-a-day goal.
Start your day with the sea
In recent history, the islands surrounding Takamatsu have gained notoriety as home to the artworks of world-renowned, contemporary artists, many of whom have participated in the Setouchi Triennale. Not to be left out, Takamatsu is also home to several pieces, some of which are conveniently located near the port. Taking in the work along the waterfront, walk out to the end of the long pier to watch the ferries come and go over a cup of coffee: a good start in my book.
No time to go to Iya Valley? Head to Shikoku Mura
After your seaside stroll, why not head for the mountains? Shikoku Mura is a short train ride away on the Kotoden Railway and is home to over 30 historic structures collected from around the region, most of which are original. This outdoor architectural park allows visitors to see what life in Shikoku was like before apartment buildings and prefabricated houses. Farmhouses, workshops, and even a replica of the famous vine bridges that used to span the gorges in Iya Valley await!
Directions to Shikoku Mura:
From Takamatsu-Chikko station, take the Kotoden Railway train to Kataharamachi station. There, transfer to the Kotoden Shido Line and alight at Kotoden Yashima station. Shikoku Mura is a short walk from the station.
You must be hungry! Food & drink in Ritsurin Koen, Takamatsu
Take the Kotoden Railway again and head in the direction of sustenance. As an important regional centre, Takamatsu offers many different types of cuisine, so if you’re longing for Western fare, you will definitely find something here. However, if you were to ask a Japanese person what food comes to mind when they hear “Takamatsu,” I would wager that most would say udon. Udon is a flour-based noodle that can be found across the country, however, what sets the udon in Takamatsu apart from the rest is its chewy texture and square shape. If you’ve never had udon before or are interested in trying the “standard,” I recommend going for the kake udon. This is a bowl of udon noodles with warm, clear, fish-based broth ladled over top.
A good shop near Ritsurin Koen is Uehara-ya. Very reasonably priced and an excellent example of udon from this area. Open 9am – 4pm. Closed: Sundays.
Directions to Ritsurin Koen:
From Kotoden Yashima, take the Kotoden railway train to Kataharamachi. There, transfer to the Kotohira Line and alight at Ritsurin Koen station. Uehara-ya udon restaurant and Ritsurin Koen are a short walk from the station.
Walk it off in Ritsurin Koen Garden
Ritsurin Koen is without a doubt one of the main attractions in Takamatsu. Formerly belonging to the feudal lord of the area, the garden has a history spanning nearly 400 years. I recommend taking time to stroll along the pathways past carefully manicured trees and bushes; there’s no reason to rush.
If you have sweet tooth like me, consider stopping for green tea and a Japanese sweet at the Kikugetsu-tei tea house. The view from the inside alone practically warrants entry, regardless of your fondness (or lack thereof) of green tea and Japanese sweets. To enjoy the garden from a different point of view, go for a leisurely punt on the south pond, and enjoy the garden as the feudal lords used to.
Ritsurin Koen is a short walk from Kotoden Railway’s Ritsurin Koen station. It is also accessible from JR Ritsurinkoen-Kitaguchi station.
Retail therapy? Shopping in Marugame, Takamatsu
If you haven’t reached the 10,000 step mark yet, this will help your cause. From Ritsurin Koen, walk back towards Takamatsu Port via the Marugame shopping street: one of the longest, covered shopping arcades in the country. Arcades like this exist in many communities around Japan, but more often than not have fallen into disuse in recent decades. Marugame, however, is an exception to the trend. Even if you’re not a shopper, it’s still an enjoyable thing to see and experience.
Come full circle! Drinks at Astro, JR Clement Hotel
Why not finish the day off in a similar way to where it began: at the sea. The JR Clement Hotel’s Bar Astro on the 21st floor offers not only sweeping views of the Inland Sea, but usually some sort of “happy hour” deal from 5:00 p.m. Sip, sit back, and take in the scenery as the sun slips below the horizon.
Explore the Ritsurin Gardens and Shikoku-Mura on our 12-night small group tour, Hidden Japan. You will also visit Naoshima “Art Island”, Kyoto’s famous temples and Hiroshima’s peace museum, as well as having the opportunity to stay in a traditional Buddhist temple.
To find out more, call our team on 0117 370 9751 or email: [email protected].